Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Alhusainy v. Superior Court (Cal. Ct. App. - Sept. 26, 2006)

Maybe I missed something here. Is this California in 1850? The wild, wild west? Did I accidentally travel back in time a century or so? Since when has it been okay for a judge to say to a defendant: "Okay, I won't sentence you, but only if you leave the state and don't come back."?

Not now, that's for sure. Which is what Justice Rylaarsdam holds here, in which he reverses a guilty plea in which the judge told the defendant that if he pled guilty and left the state, the judge would defer sentencing and issue a warrant that would only be good in California. In other words, as long as the defendant left town, he could get off scot free, but if he wanted to stay in the state, she'd sentence him to prison for four years.

Not cool, Justice Rylaarsdam (properly) holds. We don't banish people anymore. It's unconstitutional. And also stupid, as well as unfair to residents of other states. If a guy deserves prison, send him there. If not, don't simply run him out of town. It was moronic in the old days. It's equally unwise now.

Not only does Justice Rylaarsdam reverse the court below, but he also reassigns the case to a different judge on remand. For good reason. Reassignment is ordered partly due to the crazy -- and clearly unconstitutional -- nature of the banishment order. But it's also due in part to the fact that the judge -- Judge Pamela Iles --appears to be swept up in the circumstances of the crime, which (in turn) likely gave rise to the "inventive" decision to banish the defendant. For example, when the prosecution recommended a sentence of 180 days time served, the court rejected the offer, and was adamant that the defendant receive four years in prison if he ever came back to California.

This isn't the first time, by the way, that Justice Rylaarsdam has been somewhat upset with Judge Iles. Check out this post last year, in which I briefly discuss a case in which Justice Rylaarsdam expressly slammed Judge Iles a lot more that he does here.

The unifying theme seems to be that Judge Iles is perhaps a bit too tempermental sometimes. And that this reaction occasionally leads to some fairly clearly injudicious decisions.

Mellow out. Chant your mantra. Comply with the Constitution.

All good thoughts.